Thursday, 28 August 2008

A premonition

Yesterday's blog post was clearly a moment of psychic clarity, for today Liverpool Echo columnist Joe Riley has also vented his spleen about the state of our stations.

Obviously, I was pleased to read the Echo heavyweight getting behind the broad message of my campaign to address the unsanitary and dangerous conditions in our underground - but where were the pigeons?

Not a tweet from Riley on the fundamental cause of it all.

Maybe it's time to lobby for "Red Ken - Mayor of Liverpool" - he's clearly the only man with a plan on this issue.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Liver birds

Forget the congestion charge, Red Ken's legacy to London is the falcon in Trafalgar Square.

I lived in London for five years, I worked in Leicester Square, and walked through Trafalgar Square each day - I have endured pigeon horrors innumerable.

But none like the life endangering run in I had with a bat-out-of-hell pigeon that dived bombed down an escalator at Moorfields today.

For those that don't know Liverpool, Moorfields is a bit like Kings Cross in that it connects everything, including the Northern line to the Wirral line by a steep, long, underground, enclosed escalator. That a big fat pigeon lives in.

It zoomed down, clipped my head, then sat stupidly at the bottom thinking about other ways freak me out. Flying straight at me did the trick - I screamed, dropped my paper and almost full down the escalator.

Fast forward four hours and I'm at James Street having a nice chat with the Merseyrail man about the pigeon problem - and more importantly what they plan to do about it.

Nothing is what they plan to about it - apparently, "you're alright if they don't hit you in the face".

It's time for the Echo to start calling for falcons in the city - if it's good enough for the capital, then it's good enough for the capital of culture, I say.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Solid gold

Could 19 gold medals have been 20 if Dwain Chambers had been selected to compete in Beijing?

At the time of the ruling I wondered if the British Olympic Association (BOA) had made the right decision: Chambers had said sorry, expressed remorse, and then let his legs do the talking out on the track.

And they spoke volumes - he qualified fair and square and proved himself the fastest 100m sprinter the UK could pit against Usain Bolt.

I felt sorry for him - it seemed a big price to pay for a mistake back in 2003.

But what would it have mattered? Bolt would have beaten Chambers any day of the week and the BOA deserves credit for standing up to Chambers.

The only thing that could take the shine off what we saw in China is a drugs scandal.

Not that I'm suggesting Chambers isn't clean, quite the contrary, he'd be mad not to be after his high profile battle with the BOA.

The scandal would have been Chambers legal victory over the BOA, had he been allowed to run.

So soon after Max Moseley - another case in which the facts of the complainant's unsavoury behaviour were not disputed, but the letter of the law was used to reward a orgy-indulging married man - it is refreshing to see a judge make the right decision.

The "resort to court" culture that is now part of our national psyche is wrong and it's damaging.

Sometimes people make mistakes that they have to live with forever - there's no court appeal option for them because that's just the way it is - but a litigious society encourages us to forget that.

Dwain needs to grow up and accept he should give up the day job.

Team GB are better off with 19 honest medals than 20 hypocritical ones.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Ronson replies

So, I dropped Mr Ronson a quick email via his website suggesting Joyce McKinney as subject matter for his next documentary, and lo! A reply:

"I agree she would be fascinating! I'm in the process of seeing what I can do."

Do you think that entitles me to royalties?

(N.B. Ronson is a kind of cooler, edgier heir to Louis Theroux's brand of oddball investigative journalism. His book Them will give you the idea. And yes, I did consider asking for a job.)

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Seal scandal!

Thanks must go to Captain Mac for his erudite analysis of Ms McKinney's behaviour:

Manacled mormons, prosthetic ponies, cloned canines - does all this mad chick's craziness have to involve alliteration?
If so then should we be looking out for bagged budgies, zapped zebras and indignant iguanas?
I think we should be told - get on it Laura!!

In response to this call to arms, I want to assure readers that I am, indeed, "on it" and currently following up a hot lead.

I can't reveal too much at this stage, but suffice it to say McKinney's movements cannot be accounted for during the West Kirby sandbank seal scaring scandal - a story brought to you by the Wirral News.

Another link that readers may find of interest, yes, it's prosthetics for ponies, a subsidiary company of Animal Rehab Centers of America:

I am now awaiting with baited breath the announcement that one of my favourite Jewish journalists, Jon Ronson or Louis Theroux is making a documentary about McKinney. I have taken the liberty of suggesting this to Mr Ronson via email and will be sure to share his response.

Right, I think that's quite enough silliness for one night; only serious posts next week.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

News just in

Hello McKinney watchers!

There has been a fresh twist in the ever bizarre tale of Joyce the "manacled Mormon kidnapper" McKinney.

Turns out it's not just Mormons that she's obsessed with, she's got a freaky thing for animals too.

First it was the South Korean puppy cloning, now it's - actually I'll let The Times, who have followed the story so faithfully, take over:

The “manacled Mormon” kidnapper who was exposed after cloning her pet pitbull terrier in South Korea is wanted on burglary charges involving a three-legged horse in the United States.

Joyce McKinney is accused of telling a 15-year-old boy to break into a house in Tennessee so that she could get money to buy a false leg for her beloved horse, her lawyer said.

Prosthethics for ponies - who knew it was so lucrative?

On other business, it has been brough to my attention that there is another possible explanation for the linguistic conundrum that is the phrase "to get caned".

Captain Mac said: "I think caned comes from when drinks like rum were brewed from fermented sugar cane."

I like it.

Meanwhile, the latest news on the future of Cains is that PWC are talking up their chances of finding a buyer "to take control within just a few days" according to the oft over-looked publication The Publican.

PWC said: “We are advertising for interested parties in the Financial Times at the end of the week and that should help us set a timescale for positive offers as early as the week beginning August 18."

Consider yourselves updated.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Friday fun

Maybe I'm going crazy, but I found this hilarious.
It is truly the fail blog of cakes, enjoy!

I'm off for a nice slice of Victoria sponge myself.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Boris Johnston, Kelvin MacKenzie, and now...

Tim Leunig.

The think tank academic who urged scousers to move South because Liverpool has lost its "raison d'etre" has found himself on the wrong end of the city's wrath.

Not since blundering Boris and The Sun's infamous Hillsborough splash has there been such an outcry directed at one man.

Leunig's half-baked ideas have been the subject of acres of coverage, with stirring double page spreads in the Liverpool Daily Post and Echo.

Undeniably its been great fun to read, but should we be wasting our time on Leunig? By taking a swipe at the proudest city in the UK the LSE economist was always guaranteed to make the front pages.

Which has me wondering if our northern pride had been manipulated?

A friend at the Hull Daily Mail summed it up today when she said: "We fizz up like a bottle of pop when someone has a dig."

And we do. The fact is, far from harming his career this furore is going to make the Bill Gates look-a-like Leunig into a darling of academia.

You only have to look at Johnston and MacKenzie to see that they didn't suffer much for their ill-advised pot shots at scousers. Boris is now mayor of London and MacKenzie is a millionaire.

In a way it's a shame that Leunig went loopy and suggested mass migration as an alternative to making regeneration work, because there are questions to be asked about the received wisdom that "regeneration" is the saviour of our cities.

A week ago The TaxPayers’ Alliance came out with their own paper arguing that regional development agencies have cost the tax payer £15bn and have failed to deliver value for money, at the same time the National Audit Office are scrutinising the work of such quangos ready for a major report in 2009.

Now, there's something worth dedicating column inches to.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Phrase and fable, caned and able

********* *********
Is the soundtrack to this post - there's a reason.

On the way home from work today I was thinking about a pint of beer.

Which is no unusual state of affairs, but this time I was pondering the etymology of the pint in question.

"Does," I wondered, "the verb 'to cane' (most common usage 'we were caned' or 'he's a caner') derive from Liverpool's very own 'Cains' beer?"

Caners are a breed of their own according to The Sun, and just like that other incomprehensible, monosyllabic, dribbling group - premiership footballers - they have their own league. See:

Chugging through Birkdale and Sandhills I tried to get to the bottom of the question: To get caned do you need to be drinking Cains?

Because if that's the case we're all going to be sobering up very soon. Last week the tax man called time, RBS handed the beleaguered brewery over to the receivers and the long hangover began.

Now, there is another school of thought that argues the root of the verb is cocaine, or 'caine if you're really cool.

Which makes me wonder, has the government really thought this thing through? Do they want good sup-standing Cains drinkers to become coke fiends whose nostrils harbour half of Columbia just because there's a £4.2m financing shortfall?

How much did bankrolling Northern Rock cost?

Surely it's time for a private members bill in parliament calling for the nationalisation of Cains before we all end up in a worse state than Ms Winehouse because we've had to swap a nice pint for class A substance abuse in order to carry on getting caned?

Thursday, 7 August 2008

I wish I'd written this intro

"The woman who had her pet dog cloned by South Korean scientists flatly denied early today that she was a bail abscondee accused of sexually assaulting and kidnapping a male Mormon missionary more than 30 years ago in Surrey."

In Surrey! Not in Waco, Texas, but Surrey. Who knew that the leafy green costly-property public school outpost was in fact at the centre of a global movement to manhandle male Mormon missionaries?

As for the dog cloning and the South Koreans, I just don't even know where to begin.

Leo Lewis, Ben Quinn and the sub, I salute you!

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Monday, 4 August 2008

The Big Issue

I just read this story in The Guardian:

"Parents in England will for the first time be routinely informed if a child is clinically overweight under controversial plans to tackle an epidemic of obesity that were announced yesterday by the Department of Health.

"Ministers have ruled that letters to parents should not use the words "fat" or "obese" for fear they might stigmatise overweight children and cause families to ignore the results."

I'd have thought weighing more than a small baby elephant is enough to "stigmatise" a seven-year-old. I can't claim first hand experience on that, but surely being the morbidly obese kid in the class will mean they've heard a lot worse from their playground peers.

Coverage like this is worse than a letter home telling it like it is:

It also crossed my mind that it might be time for action, not words on the issue. As in 20 laps of the playing field action?

Friday, 1 August 2008

Who's the daddy?

"The Child is father of the Man," Wordsworth declared in 1802, and we all agreed.

Since then children have been becoming more and more and more powerful.

Starting with this romantic concept that childhood experiences shape us for life, we have heaped growing importance, pressure and scrutiny on the little 'uns.

Thanks to this new improved childhood we've become terrified of the small tyrants who wield so much power in our culture.

If that sounds like an over-exaggeration ask yourself when was the last time you told a bunch of 10-year-olds on a train to turn their fit-inducing phone music down?

And why not? Because they might knife you. Because being perceived as a judgemental critic of someone else's parenting is now a social taboo. Or because a stranger talking to children is clearly a paedophile.

Either way, it boils down to the same thing: We're scared of children.

There's no doubt they now have the upper hand. We don't know what to do with them, or what to make of them - and they know it.

By giving those years so much significance we've distorted childhood beyond anyone's understanding - theirs, or ours.

Stars are no-longer real stars unless they started their career under the age of 18, see: Britney, Lindsay Lohan, Justin Timberlake, Miley Ray Cyrus, Peaches and Michael Jackson. A line-up in questionable mental health to say the very least.

We want them young forever, and we also want them looking like grown-ups - but paedophilia is definitely a bad, bad thing. No wonder everyone is confused.

Not only have we created some kind of sexualised pre-teen siren strain of child, we now need to woo them. That's because they're a market force of pester powering future consumers who brands need to seduce.

Then there's the matter of parenting. Children are tiny walking, talking status symbols - why else would Posh'n'Becks, Brangelina and even Jordan and Pete have so many of them?

But they need to be the whole package to carry real caché - which is possibly why kids in the UK consistently rank among the most stressed and depressed in the world.

In order to understand this childhood thing we've adopted a scientific approach which seems to have resulted in very little success. If you need proof of this then look no further than the fact that we test our children practically every year of their sad little lives.

We're obsessed by the idea of the child prodigy, as confirmed by the recent series of "Britain's Got Talent" which saw George Sampson, 14, Faryl Smith, 12 and Andrew Johnston, 13 dominate the show.

Even on the news agenda kids pack a punch rivalled by few adults - Madeleine McCann, Shannon Matthews and the Fritzl family all have a claim on the biggest news story of the last 12 months.

Perhaps this obsession with childhood, and our fear of its power, says much more about us than them. In other words: The only thing we're more scared of than the kids is getting old ourselves - last one to book a botox appointment's a loser!